IT was a painful experience but Nigel Dineen learned an awful lot about Galway in this year’s Connacht under-21 football final.
As manager of the Roscommon side that took the Connacht champions to extra-time in that provincial decider, he is perfectly positioned to offer an insight into the Tribesmen as Kildare prepare to do battle with them in the All-Ireland semi-final in Tullamore on Saturday.
“Galway have a lot of the team that played in the 2011 All-Ireland final so there is a lot of experience in the camp and I think that they will improve from the game against ourselves because it was a battle and being taken to extra-time will stand them in good stead,” said Dineen.
Kildare will need to find a way of coping with Galway’s speed if they are to win on Saturday as their opponents have power-packed runners all over the pitch.
“They run the ball a lot through the hands as opposed to kicking it and they move it very quickly,” said the Roscommon boss. “Against us, their half-back line came out of defense quickly and didn’t dwell on the ball. They had lads running different angles off the ball very quickly and I thought they are a team with a lot of pace all over the pitch, not just in the half-backs and midfield.”
A returning hero from the 2011 All-Ireland champions and a sharpshooter up front are the players Kildare need to watch out for on Saturday.
“I think they are strongest around midfield, that diamond around there is powerful,” said Dineen. “They brought on Tomás Flynn the last day and he was one of their main men in 2011 but he suffered a cruciate injury and is only coming back from that. He is also involved with their senior panel so he is an experienced player. He played very well when he came on against us and he adds to their strength in that part of the field. They have a good forward line too. In the end they played well and got them over the line in the Connacht final. Shane Walsh at corner-forward is a very good player and he’s the Galway free-taker, he’s probably their main footballer and will be hard to handle.”
In any game, Dineen believes that the midfield battle is crucial to the outcome. Whoever wins the most breaking ball in that part of the park will be vital and he thinks that Saturday’s result will hinge on that facet of the game. A lot has been said about both teams in the lead up to the game but it is the side that do their talking on the pitch that will emerge victorious,” said Dineen.
“Teams might come into matches with big reputations but they need to go out on the pitch and prove it. There’s no point in being talked about as a good team if you can’t put it all together on the field. It comes down to proper preparation and ensuring the team is in the right frame of mind. You see the best of teams getting beaten if they aren’t prepared properly.”
Dineen is expecting a close encounter in Tullamore. With the teams so evenly balanced, the outcome will rest on the tiny details.
“Galway will provide Kildare with a really good test at the weekend. Kildare have won some of their games quite comprehensively but it’s only when a team comes up against a challenge that you find out how good they really are. Galway have the experience of winning something too but then again Kildare might have a bit more hunger having not won an All-Ireland and the experience they are getting with the seniors will help them as well. I think it will be a great thing and it will probably come down to the small things that change games.”